Southern California

Some Say Skid Row Cleanup Effort is a Band-Aid on a Hemorrhaging Wound

"This is hard-core."

Skid row boasts one of the largest concentrations of homeless people in the country. Amid the tents, bicycles and boxes is what city hall now sees as a health crisis.

In the latest attempt to do something to clean up areas around Skid Row, some say it's only a bandage for what has become a hemorrhaging wound.

"This is hard-core," said Estela Lopez, the executive director of the Downtown Industrial District business improvement district.

She said new attempts from city hall to clean up the garbage disaster NBCLA's I-Team has uncovered is still not enough.

"We are about to enter the summer in Los Angeles with the highest number of people ever living on our sidewalks. That's going to have consequences and I'm afraid for our city," Lopez.

She said the city is trying to manage the homeless problem instead of solving it.

"We need 5,000 beds today. And another 5,000 next month. And another 5,000 the month after that. That's what you're going to need to now solve this problem," Lopez said.

Skid row is in LA City Councilman Jose Huizar's district, and he sees it as an emergency.

"We have the largest concentration of homeless in LA — in Skid Row in particular. About 4 to 5,000 people wander around looking for service. At night we have 2,000 who sleep on the street. You can't find that anywhere else in the country," he said.

His latest plan is to get more money to pay formerly homeless people to help in the cleanup effort, because of the huge backlog of complaints to the city's department of sanitation.

"We want our department to be proactive, No. 1, increase the number of personnel that they have to do these types of cleanups and also to increase enforcement," he said.

But Lopez says she's seen this idea before.

"I see a lot of proposals from well-intentioned people wanting to solve this problem by bits and bits. That's not how you approach an emergency," she said.

There are still some steps to go through before they can get the money approved and if it does.

"In this city we have an embarrassment of riches. Medical professionals, mental health professionals — why aren't they being rallied? Why aren't we calling on all of them to get us out of this problem?" Lopez said.

See the latest in NBCLA's coverage here on the homelessness crisis in Southern California. 

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